Writing on, and about, an island

Posts Tagged ‘Book editor’

Why I Won’t Publish on Amazon

In Books, Career, Crime & Mystery Writer, Writing on February 6, 2012 at 12:35 pm

If you are considering epublishing, I suggest you read this very thought-provoking article on the phenomena that is self-epublishing…

Considering that I plan to self-publish my crime novel, and produce some non-fiction e-guides later this year, does the article worry me?

No, for 3 reasons:

  1. I was never going to publish on Amazon – I’m retaining control of every stage, thanks very much
  2. I believe in my persistence
  3. I believe in my ability to be prolific

I have not mentioned talent. That’s because persistence and ‘prolificness’ are more important than talent.

And that’s something I quickly learned when I worked in-house as a book editor, and sat in the Monday morning ‘slush-pile’ meetings, where all the publishers would put forward their cases for which authors the publishing house should offer a book deal to next.

I was startled – perhaps I shouldn’t have been – that those authors who could argue a case for several follow-up books and that they’d be able to stay the distance (through publicity tours and changing trends) easily trumped those who could ‘merely’ write incredibly beautifully.

Of course, having talent, persistence and the ability to be prolific is the best combination.

In that instance, Amazon can go to hell.

How to Edit Your Book

In Books, Career, Crime & Mystery Writer, Freelance, Writing on February 1, 2012 at 10:55 am

It’s D-Day. Today’s the day I start editing the first draft of my crime novel. I had a nightmare last night that involved packs of Tasmanian Devils attacking me in a dark garden. Coincidence? I think not.

After having done nothing but the prologue of my novel for years, I wrote my 70,000-word novel in winter 2011 – in 3 months, while working full-time and managing a freelance business and a family.

I make these points (which I will turn into posts at some date) because they mean that, while I got a novel written quickly, it’s in a state you’d expect of something written in a flurry.

It will need countless revisions, but this first thorough edit will be mammoth.

I’ve worked as a magazine and book editor for about 15 years. So, therefore it follows that it will be near-impossible for me to edit my own book. Sort of in the same way that chefs don’t like going home to cook for their family…

But, as I plan to self-publish, I am committed to doing this thing. All I can do is approach my book in the same way I approach a stranger’s manuscript.

The 7 Stages of Editing

  1. I read the entire manuscript in one go – straight through, without stopping or worrying about obvious errors.
  2. I start structural editing – onscreen, in Word or InDesign if it’s an illustrated book – tracking my changes as I go. I love, love, love structural editing.
  3. After the structural editing, I do a copy edit (for grammar etc) – all the way through, making a Style Sheet as I go.
  4. I do another structural check, and cut the clutter (unnecessary words and sections), as well as make a note of anything that needs to be padded out. I know the book pretty darn well at this point, and I find this stage easy, and exciting.
  5. I do another copy edit, making sure I’ve adhered to the publisher’s specific requests.
  6. I do another full read through, ignoring minor errors, to make sure the story makes logical sense (I remember one crime novel I edited, where a murderer killed the victim on a Sunday, when it turned out later that the victim was still alive on the following Monday… Actually, that author mistake is not such a bad idea for a book…).
  7. Final tidy up – a proofread – and it’s off to the author and publisher.

I spend a while on stage 4, especially as I need to liaise with the author on what I recommend be removed, and also what I need from them.

Of course, every book is different and I don’t necessarily follow this exact recipe with each – an illustrated book, for example, often requires work on the appearance and the typesetting, and the writing of captions; I also do a lot of ghostwriting for authors at the editing stage – but it’s my tried-and-tested method for most of the author books I am privileged enough to work on (I get paid to read books!).

Hopefully it’s a method that will work with my book.

Writing a Novel

In Crime & Mystery Writer, Tasmania, Writing on January 13, 2012 at 11:22 am

Last year, after a few months of manic writing (and enforced solo weekends at my shack on Bruny Island), I finished the first draft of my first full-length novel.

It’s a crime novel, set in Tasmania. It’s to be the first in a series featuring an enigmatic central female character (the kind of person I wish to be!).

A Sydney literary agent is interested in it, based on the sample and synopsis I sent her.

And she’s just emailed me: “When can I see the whole book?”

And now I’m kind of petrified with inertia.

Why petrified?

Because I’ve worked in book publishing, and know what it takes to go from first draft to something worth sending off to an agent. It’s a physical and mental marathon. Also, I don’t want to miss this chance. Also, I’m a perfectionist. Also, I’m so exhausted by the process of getting out the first draft that I’m putting off the inevitable rewrites…

… So, why write at all?

I’ve never wavered in my belief that I’ll be a published author one day. I’ve ghost-written lots of books, and, of course, I’m already a well-published magazine and newspaper writer. But there has always been a burning desire to have my own book published. It’s in my DNA – my grandmother was a published writer (into her nineties), and my father is also.

And I have something to say. Which, when you strip everything else away, is the number 1 ingredient needed to write a book…

… Which, thank the heavens, I’ve finally done

I’ve started various novels at various points during my life. I read those tortured false starts now, and can clearly see all the hallmarks of ‘first novel’ syndrome – where you are basically writing about yourself. I cringe a little, but I can also see the seeds of this later book, the one I manage to complete.

This one still has what matters to me and my life stamped over it (mystery, history, Tasmania, being different, questioning the status quo…), but if your writing doesn’t reflect you in some small way, why write?

Enter: the art of incubation

Recently, I’ve learnt that, instead of being a procrastinator, I can happily call myself an incubator. Different thing entirely, apparently.

However, it doesn’t change the fact that I have a habit of creating side projects (editing others’ books, finishing my Masters…) that steer me away from my central goal. These projects fool me into thinking I’m still achieving my goals, without the scariness of forced to focus on what I really care about.

I also make excuses about the fact that I need to make money to pay the mortgage, and since my day job involves being creative and writing all day long for others, there’s no juice in the tank for my personal writing…

No more excuses

Writing my first novel was one of the sub-conscious reasons I moved back to Tasmania – I realise that now. Sydney was a very distracting place to live. I needed the head/body space to write a novel that Tasmania would provide.

And I need to recognise my achievements thus far.

However, I also need to get brutal. I should know how to cross the finish line; as a book editor and publisher, I’ve coaxed other writers through this journey (god, it seems so easy when it’s someone else’s book…).

So, I’ve given myself a deadline and a routine (essential, I find). I’ll be writing every day to fine-tune the draft. And I’ll keep you updated.

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